This has got to be, hands down, the single most asked question when we introduce our training programme.
Why do you run specific leadership programs from women only?
And if it isn’t asked directly, this question is hovering there like an unspoken taboo. Yes, we agree women are good for business, and yes, we understand that a diverse workforce will only benefit the company.
So, shouldn’t our focus be on hiring more skilled women, and training both women and men to work together from that point onward? Aren’t leadership skills including communication effectiveness, engaging others, conflict resolution and negotiating skills needed for both men and women?
Yes they are, but they’re not enough. Women are still facing challenges on a daily basis that men do not have to deal with.
Let’s take the example of Alice.
Alice is an experienced partner at an investment firm who recently had a baby. Having returned from maternity leave, she was told by her boss that she had been spared the “time consuming” project that would require travel from home. In her eyes, this was a prestigious project that she would have loved to have been involved in, and she would have made arrangements to minimize the impact on her new baby. She was highly disappointed that her ‘kind’ boss had not even asked if she wanted this opportunity. In cases like these, there was no bad intent. The boss genuinely felt he was doing her a favour, and this is how we see bias still at play on a daily basis.
And this does not only apply to the male bosses out there. Take the example of Mary, a senior consultant at an engineering firm who had been asked to attend a professional sales pitch by two competing service providers, just to be put off by the way one of the female presenter was dressed. Having recently learned how unconscious bias can show up at work she knew better than to be distracted by her appearance. Sadly she also suspected that if the same person would have presented to her a few months earlier she would have given the job to her competitor even though her actual pitch was better.
This wouldn’t happen in your company? And definitely not to you? Why not put it to the test and complete the Gender Bias test from the Social Phsycology network. You might be astounded by the result.
To your success,
Johanna Nesbitt & Manuela Damant